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Report: Build Skills Beyond Degrees for High-Paying Jobs


Tuesday, November 24, 2020   

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new report emphasizes the skills workers need that go beyond a degree or certification in order to get a high-paying job. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce identifies skills and abilities employers are looking for, and says communication skills are in the highest demand.

The report says good communication can boost a person's wages across industries - by up to 20%. Jason Payton is the occupational economist at the Oregon Employment Department.

"You can have the technical skills, the technical academic background necessary for a role, but if you can't communicate your ideas, if you can't disseminate and work well with others, it's going to be hard to leverage that skill and competency," Payton said.

The report lists other important skills as teamwork, sales and customer service, and problem solving and complex thinking. Researchers looked at 120 knowledge areas, skills and abilities, using the Occupational Information Network database, which includes the competencies needed for more than 1,000 occupations.

Payton said finding people with these competencies has been a challenge in recent years. Workforce gaps reports in 2018 and 2019 from his department found 11% and 8% of employers, respectively, said it was hard to fill vacancies because applicants lacked "soft skills."

"We actually saw a spread of occupations in the building trades, like carpenters and construction laborers, as well as personal care aides - all have issues related to soft skills or lack thereof," he said.

The pandemic has made it even harder to find a job. But Payton said there are opportunities to build the competencies identified in the Georgetown report.

"It's those type of entry-level jobs or in-between jobs that give us the opportunity to develop those experiences, strengthen those competencies and be more competitive when we do have those future job opportunities and 'dream jobs' come up," he said.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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